Sunday, January 16, 2000

'Sopranos' family values hit at least one sour note

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        PASADENA, Calif. — Tony Soprano may put a price on my head for this, but I've got to rat out on him. Yes, I'm probably the only TV critic not blown away by The Sopranos, which opens its second 13-week season today (10 p.m., HBO).

        It's a very good show, not a great one. (Should I dare try starting my car after typing that sentence?)

        I can respect David Chase's drama about the angst-riddled New Jersey crime boss, but it's not Must See TV for me.

        Maybe it's because the Mafia isn't the first family among my entertainment choices. The Godfather and GoodFellas isn't my cup of chianti.

        For me, the last great Don was Knotts — not Marlon Brando, Joe Montegna or The Soprano's James Gandolfini, whose crazy mother (Nancy Marchand) ordered a Mafia hit on him. (Moma mia!)

        Maybe it's the violence that turns me off, seeing a guy pick up somebody at the airport, and be thanked for the lift home by being plugged in the head, his bloody brains splattered on the driver's side window. That's not my idea of a fun time.

        I'd rather spend an hour watching the 15th Precinct detectives of NYPD Blue or County General Hospital doctors on ER realistically deal with the consequences of violence.

        The nudity of the Bada-Bing club dancers, and the adult language, doesn't bother me. The explicit talk on the premium cable show sounds authentic for a bunch of Italian thugs shaking down Jersey. (I am troubled by Tony Soprano's 14-year-old son using the F-word liberally during the family dinner.)

        Maybe I'm whacked. Maybe I should be whacked. Whatever, I studied the first two episodes from HBO, and I'm still not gonna join the mob of TV critics and viewers who hail The Sopranos as the greatest show on television.

        Personally, I think the Emmy award people got it right when The Practice was voted outstanding drama series last September, despite 16 nominations for The Sopranos.


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